Demystifying Storm Shelter Requirements

Deep Dive on Storm Shelter Closures

Safe Rooms in Schools

School Storm Shelters – how to keep kids safe



While tornadoes and hurricanes are scary and their destruction is expensive, the process of protecting children from them doesn’t have to be. That’s why I wanted to write this e-book—to help school officials understand how safe rooms in schools are constructed, what options are out there, and how to secure funding to help offset the cost of protecting young lives.

It’s not a stretch to say that it’s scary standing in a steel and concrete building in the path of a tornado. However, being in there with hundreds of children is a whole different ballgame. That’s where safe rooms come in.


The two names you need to know when looking at safe room information are the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the International Code Council (ICC). Each provides similar but distinct guidance for safe rooms in schools.


Read more about safe rooms in schools in our e-book “Demystifying Storm Shelters”



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Safe Rooms in Schools - Tornado Alley


Any state or locality that has adopted IBC 2015 or newer, is in an area that has an increased risk or tornadoes (identified as the 250 MPH wind zone.) These areas are required to have a storm shelter meeting the FEMA-361 requirements for all K-12 schools with 50 occupants or more, 911 call stations, police stations, fire, rescue and ambulance stations and more.

Safe Rooms in Schools - Hurricane vs Tornadoes


Tornadoes come on more instantly, so the pressure cannot equalize the way it can during a hurricane. When building a storm shelter for a hurricane area, you are building for duration more so than intensity. Tornadoes generally are quick, but have extremely high winds throwing all sorts of different projectiles at high rates of speed.

Safe Rooms in Schools - Schools Shelters



An interior room, or a space within a building, or an entirely separate building, designed and constructed to provide a near-absolute life-safety projection for its occupants from tornadoes or hurricanes. The most common rooms to be converted into storm shelters are cafeterias, gymnasiums, and classroom pods.